Onward Christian Soldiersby KC
Sonya walked down the sidewalk, hopping from streetlight to streetlight. The dim circles were the only lights in the darkness. The sidewalk was cracked and grass jutted out from odd angles. Across the pot-holed street, shadows danced just out of her vision. Glittering red eyes watched her, following behind her.
Mom's gonna kill me,Sonya sighed. Her mother hated it when the church club let out late, never mind that she was the one who had pushed her daughter into it. Of course, now that Sonya enjoyed the meetings, her mother wanted her to stop.
"Why do you all always talk about demons and hell?" she whined, mimicking her mother's voice. "Why can't you do more volunteer work? Preachers shouldn't be teaching you about Satan, anyway."
"Selective belief," Father Michael and president of their church club would have said. "People like to believe just in the light of heaven and the love of our Lord. They try to forget about the dark side of Christianity, Hell and evil. But if you deny that the devil exists, then you reject Heaven, too."
Sonya skipped over a toppled trash can. True, it does sound like a cult, she had to admit. But it isn't. She looked up, then sighed. Home was still ten blocks away.
As she passed an alley, a loud clatter caught her attention. She glanced down the dark side street, wondering what had made the noise, when two shining eyes looked back at her. Sonya took a step back in surprise, holding her hands up in defense. Those eyes definitely weren't human.
Suddenly those eyes came bounding toward her, and she could hear little feet splashing in the puddles from the last rain. She took another step back, almost off of the curb, but then she realized that the eyes were only a few inches off of the ground. Whatever was coming at her was awfully small. Finally it stepped out of the alley and into the street light.
A tiny kitten sat down in front of her and mewed piteously. Its gray fur was matted and hung off of its bones. It obviously hadn't eaten in a long time.
"Oh, you poor thing," Sonya cooed, picking the kitten up and holding it in her arms. Its little paws were frozen and wet, but it purred as it snuggled up against her.
"Don't worry, I'll take care of you," she assured it, thinking about what her mother would say about the dirty kitty. "I'll feed you and clean you up and give you a warm place to sleep."
Sonya pulled her jacket open a little and eased the kitten into the inside pocket, where it poked its paws and nose out. Now she could hear its purring right beside her ear. Already its body was warming up.
"My home's not too far," she told it. "You'll like it there, if my mom likes you. I'm sure she will."
She kept talking to the cat, telling it about her house and what kind of things she liked. She never noticed the shadows that were getting closer, coming down the buildings and creeping alongside the curb. But the kitten knew they were there. It could smell them. It kept its eyes open and stared straight ahead.
Without warning, the kitten hissed and spat. Sonya stopped, and the kitten quieted some, but it still growled oddly. Sonya had never heard anything make that kind of noise, and it frightened her.
"What's the matter, kitty?" she asked in a whisper. Something inside told her that the little animal in her pocket knew what was best. "What's wrong?"
She took another step forward, and the kitten hissed again. She took a step back and the cat just growled. Sonya looked farther along the sidewalk. It looked barren and empty to her. No one was coming at her. Still, there was no mistaking the kitten's cries. Something was making it nervous. Without another thought, Sonya turned around and headed back for the church.
"Okay, baby," she said softly, "we're going back to Father Michael. I can sleep over there 'till morning."
In response, the kitten purred.
As Sonya walked down the sidewalk, she heard something behind her. It was like footsteps, but they weren't clear and deliberate like they should have been. They were muffled and quick, with a faint tap after each step.
"What makes that kind of sound?" she wondered aloud, but not too loud.
The kitten held up a paw and extended its claws for her to see.
Sonya almost stopped in her tracks, but she screwed up her courage and forced herself to keep walking. Her kitten cried softly, urging her on.
The tracks behind her picked up their pace. For a moment, Sonya wondered if it was a dog, but the sounds were too much like her. This creature had two legs.
With claws on its feet,Sonya cried silently. Oh, Lord, keep me safe.
She sped up, and the thing behind her hurried, too. Throwing pride to the wind, Sonya broke into a sprint, praying she would reach the church in time. The clawed creature kept up with her, and now more footsteps joined it. Their steps sounded lighter, though, which meant that they were smaller. She could probably outrun these things with her longer strides, but she had no way to tell if she could outrun the bigger one. After listening to another hour of Father Michael's lectures, Sonya had no doubt that they were demons. Even if they were really humans intent on her wallet, they were demons in her mind. She wondered if she should turn and see what they look like.
Don't turn,screamed her inner voice. Don't look. Keep your back to them. Remember Lot's wife.
"Every story has a meaning," Father Michael had said. Sonya had always believed him, she had just never thought that she would be applying them in such an extreme manner.
The steps weren't too far behind her now. If she kept going straight, she would never make it to the church. Terrified, she turned down an alley and splashed through the deep puddles, listening to it follow just a few meters behind her. To her despair, there was a fence blocking the alley up ahead, and even if she tried to jump it, little red eyes shone over glistening fangs just beyond it.
The kitten in her pocket cried out, and she looked up. To her amazement, there was a fire escape on the wall just before the fence with its ladder down. Still, it was a long jump to it, and even if she could reach it, her upper body strength was too feeble to pull herself up.
No choice,she realized. She waited for the right moment, then leaped up toward the ladder. Miraculously, she caught the lowest rung. With her forward momentum and a gymnastic skill she didn't know she possessed, she vaulted up and onto the first staircase. Not waiting, she pounded her way up, turning corners faster than she could count.
Something slammed into the building below her, then struck the wall again, and again. In her peripheral vision she could see massive arms with jagged claws forced into the wall and coming up, like an ice climber. It was just behind her.
Sonya climbed onto the roof's ledge and ran across it, jumping over the small gap between the buildings and landing on next roof. Not pausing, she kept running. A few seconds later, something heavy hit the roof behind her. The shock was so great that she was surprised the roof didn't collapse in.
This time she had to jump up to the next roof, and she only just caught the side with her arms. She managed to pull herself up, but the move cost her several seconds. The creature who owned those claws could not reach her yet, but she could feel the tips of its claws brushing against her shirt.
The building they were on didn't lead onto another, but rather opened up to the street. It was a five story drop to the ground below.
"Stop running," came the low growl behind her. "Give up your soul and you'll live."
The kitten hissed back something Sonya wished she understood. It was probably some four letter word that the kitten really should not know.
"No way," she gasped, trying to get air into her lungs. "Ain't mine to give. 'Sides, I'd rather die than live without it!"
With that last sentence, Sonya jumped off of the roof and into empty space. The creature stopped short, unwilling to follow, although Sonya had the feeling it could jump without injury if it wanted to.
For a moment, Sonya fell naturally, picking up speed every second. Halfway through the fall, though, soft hands gripped her waist and held her aloft, letting her down slowly. There was a bright glow around her. She could feel the beating of mighty wings, even though the feathers only whispered in the distance. Something was placed in her right hand, and she could feel her kitten purring contentedly inside her jacket.
Now turn,came that voice again, turn and face it. Strike it down.
Trusting that voice with her life, Sonya turned around, bringing her new sword in her right hand in front of her. The dark shadow that had been following her stepped off of the roof. In the dim moonlight, she could see the silhouette of huge, leather wings stretch out behind it.
Sonya backed up into the streetlight, waiting for the demon to come closer. As soon as it came within a few feet of the light, she could see its features plainly.
The demon had ebony skin, as if it had been charred as black as coal by unnatural fires. Sharp, ivory claws extended from both its hands and feet, which seemed more like hooves than anything else. A long tail flipped around behind it. Its entire body rippled with muscles.
Sonya wondered how it could talk, though, since its jaws were elongated like a dog's snout, with huge fangs to boot. Red eyes gleamed out of its head.
"Christian bitch," it snarled, crouching low.
"Hate to break this to you," she said, holding the golden sword in both hands, "but the only one who looks like a dog here is you."
The demon swiped at her with a claw, but she swayed back in time for it to pass by her face. The monster never stepped into the light, and Sonya was careful not to step out of it. The circle of light gave her a tangible boundary to stay behind. The demon circled her, trying to reach her. She kept her hands eased up against the perfectly straight hilt. In the light, she could see a painted thorn branch rising up one side of the blade. For a moment, the night was perfectly quiet.
And then everything happened in a rush.
The demon turned suddenly, whipping its tail at her. It wrapped around her left arm and tried to yank her out of the circle. With a wild cry, Sonya dropped the blade down and severed the tail, leaving the demon howling and giving her a fist full of a writhing snake. She let it go and it slithered off into the darkness.
Less a tail, the demon reached into the circle with its arms, which it quickly lost to her sword. The kitten cried out loudly in excitement, chittering as if it was chasing a mouse. Dark blood spurted over the ground, and the demon dropped to its knees in pain. It looked up as she raised her blade.
"Onward Christian soldiers," she whispered, then sliced its head off. It tumbled into the light as the torso fell to the ground.
Finished with the battle, Sonya sighed in relief and started to clean her blade. Then she remembered that there were still several little imps somewhere out there. Those things would be harder to hit with a long sword. Better to get inside than stay out here. She could clean up later. She heaved her sword up and headed back to the church. Little clawed feet scattered away as she walked, her sword over her shoulder like a rifle.
When she knocked on the church doors, the lights came on immediately and Father Michael let her in. He recognized what she held and grinned.
"Welcome to the army of light," he said."I trust the battle went well."
"Only because of my friend," she told Father Michael, opening her jacket and showing him the furry bundle. She could have sworn the cat smiled smugly. "This little kitten warned me about the demon. He saved my life twice. He's the one who showed me the fire escape in the alley."
"It's no accident he found you," the priest laughed. "He's heaven sent."
"Then I guess I know his name," she smiled. "Angelito. Are there others like us?"
"Oh yes," he nodded. "I called your mother and told her you were staying over. Tonight you can meet the rest of our little troop."
"Can I get cleaned up first?" she asked. "I have demon blood all over me." The kitten let out a shrill cry. "And I think Angelito wants to clean up and eat something."
Father Michael smiled. "Of course. Use the shower in the back. I'll have some clothes brought to you, and some Spam for the kitten. Then you can tell us about the fight. It must have been splendid. We could hear the rumbling all the way over here."
Sonya grinned. "It was great. I rejected the devil and an angel carried me off a rooftop and gave me my sword. And I got to hack something apart. How often do we get to do this?"
"All the time," he laughed. "All the time."